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George Francis Train

1829-1904

George Francis Train was a merchant and entrepreneur, born on 24 March 1829 at Boston, United States. He was raised by his grandparents after his family died in a yellow fever epidemic. Train was one of the hundreds of American merchants who came to take advantage of the Australian gold rush and he travelled to Melbourne in May 1853 with his wife. Melbourne partly owes its nineteenth-century reputation for being Americanized to men like him and his partner Ebenezer Caldwell, a New England sea captain. As few left any account of their experiences, the letters that Train wrote to American newspapers are of much value, revealing the refreshingly different reactions of an American republican to Australian conditions.

Train wrote copious letters to American newspapers which reveal his American republican view to Australian conditions. With his business partner Caldwell (Caldwell, Train & Co.) he was involved with the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and the Exchange, emphasising the importance of more public and private enterprise. Train wrote several reports for the chamber, including a motion for the unrestricted Chinese emigration and land policy based on American models.

Train established warehouses at the ends of the railways from Sandridge to Flinders Street making it easier for ship passengers to transfer from the port to city. He played a key role in the organisation of a volunteer run fire brigade and he imported clothing, guns, flour, building materials, patent medicines, mining tools, coaches and carts, wagons and buggies. He returned to Boston in 1854 to join his wife and daughter. His accounts of his experiences in Australia were published in 1857 and were very well received. The New York publisher then requested Train examine the economic conditions in Europe.

In the next few years Train established horse-drawn tramways in Birkenhead and London and played an elusive role in the financing of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad and the Union Pacific in the United States. In 1870 he went on a second world trip which he claimed gave Jules Verne the model for Around the World in Eighty Days. Insolvent at 47 and his United States presidential ambitions unsupported, Train turned to lecturing as his main source of income.

Train toured the world again in 1890 and 1892. He died in New York on 18 January 1904, two years after publishing My Life in Many States and in Foreign Lands.